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In the Spotlight

Published: August 14, 2009 (Issue # 1500)


On Sunday, Channel One launched its own version of the British comedy show The Kumars at 42. The original show has jokes about an Indian family, while the Russian version chose Armenians as its local amusing ethnic group. And the Armenians arent very happy.

The concept of the British show is that a would-be television star cant get a job, so he decides to film his own chat show at home. Real famous people step through his front door and are accosted by his embarrassing relatives, who are actors performing scripted and improvised jokes.

The show on Channel One is called Rubik Almighty. The ad for the show explains that Rubik is a wealthy Armenian who likes to buy and sell everything and has decided to pay for his own show on Channel One.

Amazingly, television critic Irina Petrovskaya told Ekho Moskvy that she initially thought that this was for real.

Rubik lives in a huge, tastelessly decorated house with his blonde Russian girlfriend, his middle-aged sister, his sex-mad grandfather and his geeky teenage nephew Gamlet, or Hamlet, a popular boys name in Armenia.

The Union of Armenians in Russia on Wednesday published a letter of protest to the director of Channel One, calling the Armenian family caricatured.

The show was announced as a comedy, but what we saw provoked not laughter but a natural storm of indignation among Armenian youth in Russia, the letter said.

Armenians are traditionally viewed as the funniest people in the Soviet bloc, along with Jewish people. While the idea that an Indian chat show host cant get his own show in Britain has a satirical edge, its hard to argue that theres any discrimination against Armenians on Russian television as long as theyre being funny.

Garik Martirosyan appears on current-affairs comedy show ProjectorParisHilton; Mikhail Galustyan is the co-star of the sketch show Nasha Russia; Tigran Keosayan hosts a late-night discussion show; Yevgeny Petrosyan is the long-running star of Crooked Mirror, an old-fashioned variety show; and the Comedy Club stand-up show is owned by Armenians.

The star of Rubik Almighty, Ruben Dzhaginyan, is well-known in Armenia as a former member of its KVN student comedy team and the head of a big ad agency.

The pilot show was flashy but not very funny. The guests were Dmitry Dibrov, a Channel One host whose grin occasionally slipped off his frozen face, and Anna Semenovich, a figure skater turned pop singer. She looked frightened as the jokes focused on her ample bosom.

The best jokes were about Dibrovs frequent trips to the registry office ?he recently married two girls, aged 23 and 19 and a question to vocally challenged sexpot Semenovich: Is it true that the only way to get into show business is via ice skates?

Part of the problem is that Russian television doesnt really have the celebrity chat show format that The Kumars at 42 was parodying. Reactions to the show were baffled. What on earth was it? wrote Chocolita on LiveJournal.

Armenians complained that the show was offensive to their nation.

I consider Rubik Almighty a personal insult, wrote Slishkomtiho, an Armenian blogger. Either take [Dzhaginyan] off the air or force him to speak without an accent, Juber wrote on the Channel One forum.

Rubik spoke with an exaggerated accent, which was presumably fake. All the Armenian stars on television speak Russian without any accent.

Whats more, Rubik is a collection of all the stereotypes about Armenians: He flashes the cash, likes blondes, keeps things in the family, never stops doing business and is irritatingly successful.

Although if I could pick my national stereotypes, I wouldnt mind those ones.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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